The following is an interview with Preston Ritter conducted via email in October 1997.
Hello again, Haydn,
I'll try to answer your questions:
1. Where were the Electric Prunes formed? Some biographies report Seattle and some Los Angeles.
The San Fernando Valley (part of northern LA area). Our first single broke in Seattle and Boston first. We did our first live concert to back the record in Seattle. A DJ there started the rumor that we originated in Seattle. That misinformation has stuck for all these years.
2. How was the band formed? Was an advert placed in the music press or did you know each other before the band started?
Several of the members were friends before (high schl, etc). I got in through an introduction by one of the others' friends.
3. With the effects in the songs and the technology available at that time, did the songs take long to record?
Yes....We did the recording in layers. Rhythm tracks first, guitar solos & overdubs, then vocals. A lot of time taken up in the studio experimenting with new sounds, effects, etc. (Very expensive!)
4. How long were you with the Electric Prunes?
About two years. I was the first to quit.
5. On the back on the 'Underground' cover, the drumming is credited to Quint. Did you play on this album at all?
Yes, I did most of the tracks. I left the group during the recording of that album. They told me I could either get photo/name on the album cover or take the royalties from the sales. I took, "royalties." Big mistake. I got ZERO! No album credit or royalties.
6. Why did you leave the Electric Prunes and were you happy with the outcome?
I left due to differences with James Lowe, the singer. I was happy with some stuff we recorded and hated some others. I never felt they let me play up to my real capabilities. I had a jazz background technically, and could play more complex and grooving rhythms. But they forced me to play very simple. That's ok for some things, but became boring to play that way all the time. After the Prunes, I played and/or recorded with Linda Ronstadt, Dobie Gray, Beach Boys, James Brown and many others.
7. There was a radical change of musical direction from the 'Underground' album to the 'Mass in F Minor' album. What had happened to the Electric Prunes?
Dave Hassinger contracted with Lee Hazelwood for the Mass album. I didn't play on it. It was largely studio musicians.
8. Following on from question 7, did any of the original band members play on 'Mass in F Minor' and subsequently 'Release of an Oath'?
Yes. On Mass they did. On "Release of an Oath," No. All new people.
9. I have a reissue of 'Mass in F Minor' from 1974 which states that 4 of the original 5 band members were brought back together for the 'Just Good Old Rock and Roll' LP. Another biography states that none of the original played on the album. Which is true?
Nobody from the original group played on or had anything to do with that recording.
10. I know the Prunes toured Europe at the end of 1967 - a live LP has been released in the UK this year called 'Stockholm 67'. Did the Prunes do a lot of touring or were they mainly a studio band? Do any other live tapes still exist?
We toured and played live extensively, mostly in the US. I've heard there are bootlegs of some of the European dates. I haven't seen them or heard them, except for one recorded off of a Swedish radio broadcast of a live concert. A guy in Scotland sent that to me. He did the liner notes on the re-issue CD, "Long Days' Flight" from the UK (1989--now out of print).
11. Did you find there was a lot of rivalry with other bands such as the Strawberry Alarm Clock?
No. We knew a lot of the other groups from that era and got along great with them. Our style was so different from any other groups back then, we didn't really feel we were competing (style wise) with them. Of course, we did compete for chart positions!
12. What was your favourite Electric Prunes song and why?
Probably "Too Much to Dream" and "Hideaway." Also, "Train for Tomorrow." I liked the drum parts and "Too Much to Dream" was our biggest hit.
Some trivia: We were the first band in the world to use and record with the "Wah-Wah" pedal invented by Vox. We used the prototype on our second album, before it was mass produced and put on the market. We did the radio commercial for it, which is a collectors item. I have a tape copy sent to me by someone in England. Also, the Gibson "Fuzz-Tone" used on "Too Much to Dream" was the exact same one used by the Rolling Stones on "Satisfaction." Dave Hassinger, our producer, was their recording engineer, so we got to meet them through him. They gave him/us the fuzz tone and some Gibson "Firebird" guitars as well as some amps. Jimmy Hendrix (we knew him too) told us we were a favourite of his and a big influence on the style he developed.
You've probably already looked at this Web site, but in case you haven't here's one with some accurate info on us. I helped correct some of the errors.
The Electric Prunes
Hope this helps you out! I'll answer anything else you want to know...
Drummer for the Electric Prunes, 1966-67